Randy Cygan was confident. The Manhattan head coach had watched the Tigers fight their way through the postseason to earn a berth at state for the first time. They had deserved the right to make program history.
After the Tigers lost by a single run to East top-seeded Huntley Project, East No. 3 seed Conrad/Choteau defeated West No. 4-seeded Manhattan 10-2 in a Class B-C loser-out game Friday at the Belgrade Softball Complex.
“We earned it,” Cygan said. “Kudos to the girls. They did a great job.”
In the top of the first inning, Conrad/Choteau scored three times off two home runs by Whitney Durocher, who finished 2 for 3 with three RBIs and four runs, and Aspen Petrosky, who ended up 3 for 4 with two RBIs and a run scored. The Tigers fought back with a run in the first on a passed ball, but their next score wouldn’t come until the sixth when they were already down by nine. From the circle, Durocher allowed one earned run on seven hits, three strikeouts and three walks in seven innings.
Manhattan’s Lizzie Rasnick concluded the game 2 for 3 while Adele Didriksen and Amy Grevious scored. Didriksen, Malia Friese and Rasnick each recorded a double, and six Tigers tallied hits. Manhattan’s Meagan Elgas started the game, allowing six runs, eight hits and a walk as she totaled three strikeouts in 3 ⅓ innings.
Following the Tigers' loss to Huntley Project Cygan believed the Tigers would play more relaxed. They had never played in a state tournament game before Thursday, and he hoped that experience would help them feel more composed.
Grevious, a junior center fielder, wasn’t upset the Tigers lost.
“I think our goal was to first make it to divisionals then make it to state,” Grevious said. “We want to win and everything, but just making it to state was such an accomplishment.”
Sophomore right fielder Shayla Shea hoped the Tigers would keep their spirits up after their first-round loss, and they weren’t devastated even immediately after the Thursday game.
And no matter which way the state tournament ended, she hoped the entirety of the season energized the program.
“We’re at state, and we almost beat our No. 1 seed,” Shea said. “And the fact that we’re doing so well now is just going to hype up the kids underneath us to push their hardest and play a good game.”
Grevious doesn’t believe she’ll ever forget the Tigers clinching a state tournament berth. That moment signified their season-long quest had been accomplished and program history had been made. It was also a sign of the Tigers taking another step toward prominence in the state.
Cygan said making state was “a total bonus.” But, he added, the team will always have a next goal. Next season, Cygan wants Manhattan to be one of the top-seeded teams at state instead of playing one in the first round.
Grevious believes the team’s success will increase enthusiasm for the sport at her school. If potential players hear about Manhattan softball and its success, she hopes they will be intrigued and want to join.
As for current players, this season simply sets a higher bar.
“I think we can keep making state,” Grevious said, “and then eventually grow up to be state champions.”